Valley Women's Center records
Scope and Contents
There is also a small amount of Valley Women's Union material, dating from 1973 to 1976. The bulk of VWU records are held by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
- 1970 - 2013
- Majority of material found within 1971-1972
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Biographical / Historical
The VWC identified itself with radical feminism, scorning the National Organization of Women (NOW) for encouraging women to obtain positions of power in a patriarchal society as opposed to dismantling the patriarchy. It also allied itself with Third World causes and political battles. In addition, VWC members were among the first to address rape as a political issue.
The VWC office was staffed by volunteers and it had an open library with archival material about the women's movement. The office was open daily and two evenings per week, offering a myriad of free services to women. For example, there was a free store on the premises where one person could donate items in exchange for someone else's donated goods. In 1971, the VWC began sponsoring welfare rights programs and vocational counseling. It also offered pregnancy counseling, its most used-service. The VWC organized classes in self-defense, auto mechanics, writing, art, women's studies and health, and sponsored lectures and discussions about feminism. The organization also facilitated support groups for women. The film co-op enabled women to create films about their own experience, as well as to come to the office to watch films about women.
In 1971, the VWC proposed to create the Women's Institute. Had it become a reality, its components would have included a group home for delinquent girls, designed to teach them independence and self-reliance; an artisan colony providing women artists "a room of their own;" and apprenticeships for women in skills programs in such traditionally gender-segregated fields as carpentry and truck driving. The Women's Institute would have supported research in women's history, in addition to developing child care services and an experimental school.
In 1973, the VWC began to face financial difficulties due to its non-profit status. The Center was chronically understaffed and the group had a difficult time coordinating child care for members who were interested in volunteering their time. Racism was also a concern since few African-American women were active in the group. The membership of lesbians, who had always been an active force in the organization, dwindled due to the later admittance of men to the working groups. These two issues caused internal conflict and declining membership.
After much thought and debate the group determined that offering free services to women did not necessarily persuade the women receiving the services to participate in the women's movement. Thus the VWC dissolved in November, 1973 and a new organization, the Valley Women's Union (VWU), was formed. The VWU occupied the same space as that of the VWC, at 200 Main Street, Northampton. The VWU was more structured, and members were required to agree to socialist/feminist political principles and to take part in political actions. The political ideal envisioned in 1974/1975 was a Marxist revolution with no couples permitted, men being bussed off to labor camps, society having universal child care, and everyone trading job duties to avoid alienation and class privilege. One example of VWU political involvement was the "women in prison" work group, formed to protest women being held in jail. This group was active in supporting the campaign to free Angela Davis. To mitigate the alienation of lesbian members, a series of talks was held about sexual orientation and heterosexual privilege. The VWU also created a "lesbian garden," a space above the main office for lesbians only. Moreover, men were excluded from general membership.
Although the Valley Women's Center faced a number of difficulties, as a result of its pioneering work a plethora of organizations were founded to provide the services that it had originally offered. The VWC was an integral component of the women's liberation movement in the Pioneer Valley.
5 boxes (2 linear feet)
- I. Administration
- II. Correspondence
- III. Publications
- IV. Projects
- V. Subjects
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Feminism -- Massachusetts
- Feminists -- Northampton (Mass.) -- 20th century
- Lesbian community
- Northampton (Mass.) -- 20th century
- Raymond, Kaymarion
- Second-wave feminism
- Valley Women's Center
- Valley Women's Center (Northampton, Mass.)
- Women -- Societies and clubs -- United States -- 20th century
- financial records
- Valley Women's Center records
- Finding Aid
- Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
- Burd Schlessinger
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)
- 2005-09-23: mnsss71 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
- 2017-07-26T17:48:23-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
- 2019-04-24: Made paper FA pencil edit changes.
- 2020-04-02: Added accession 2014-S-0020, updated dates
Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton MA 01063